“Mommy is Granddaddy speaking Spanish?”
“No Jennifer, he’s speaking English – just like you!”
I can’t recall if the first accent I heard was the Spanish of my Ecuadorian babysitter or the now endangered Gullah spoken by my grandfather and many South Carolina Sea Island natives. I do recall believing that if you weren’t speaking English you must be speaking Spanish. LOL. While I didn’t understand my grandfather nor my babysitter I loved them both just the same.
Many people who visit the USA for the first time view this country as one big homogenous pot of Americans. They soon realize, as I did while traveling across the country, that we have more accents than you can count and exciting cultural nuances to accompany them.
Having lived in multiple regions of the country I took great pride in having a “newscaster” accent. The kind of neutral accent that made many of us think Peter Jennings was American not Canadian. To confirm my hypothesis I took a clever quiz sponsored by the New York Times yet built on the linguistic studies of Bert Vaux and Scott Golder – Survey of World Englishes. Much to my surprise they nailed it!
I must have some trace of an accent because I am indeed from NYC. How did they manage to isolate my origins not just to the northeast but to New York City?!? Apparently Vaux and Golder tapped into word choice, pronunciation, grammar and idioms to track me down. Their study is so extensive that they have been able to distinguish ethnicity based on pronunciation of certain words.
It’s fascinating that while we embrace the differences of others, in our increasingly global community, regional nuances can still be heard loud and clear. Take the survey….you might be surprised by what you learn – don’t forget share your findings in the comments section below!